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Latinos Suffer Less Work/Life Conflict

August 27 2007 - A study by Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Centro Latino published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that recent Latino immigrants employed in low-wage, non-professional jobs reported infrequent conflict between work and family.

Researchers suggest that people from more collective cultures tend to view work as necessary and vital to the well-being of their families and thus experience less conflict than white, middle-class workers. The study calls for modification of traditional models of work-family conflict to reflect the diverse experiences of workers in the new global economy.

Lead author Joseph G. Grzywacz explained that the great majority of research into work-family conflict has focused on white professionals and situations in which demands and responsibilities of work and family roles prove incompatible. For example, an employee can be distracted by concern for a sick child and work schedules can make attendance at family functions or completion of household chores impossible.

Joseph G. Grzywacz said:

"Work-family balance is a popular topic yet very little is known about the work-family experiences of Latinos, the fastest growing segment of the work force and a population that frequently finds themselves in difficult work arrangements."

With additional researchers Thomas A. Arcury, Antonio Marin, Michael L. Coates, Sara A. Quandt, Lourdes Carrillo, and Bless Burke, 226 recent immigrants from rural Mexico and Central America employed in the poultry processing industry were asked about their experiences combining work and family including the impact of physical and psychological job demands, conflict levels, health and gender issues.

Joseph G. Grzywacz commented:

"In the United States, there's this idea that work and family are diametrically opposed - people think that it has to be one or the other. In white, middle-class America, everyone is talking about how combining work and family is so stressful."

The study found that Latino workers tended to view work and family as integrated, with employment a functional means of ensuring family well-being and that they made arrangements to minimize potential conflict. However, while men reported very little work-family conflict, women identified a number of ways in which work interfered with family including job stress and pressure from supervisors. Researchers suggest that cultural ideals about women's responsibilities for caring can exacerbate the potential for conflict.

Joseph G. Grzywacz added:

"The goal of this study was to expand understanding of how culture and industry contribute to the occurrence and consequences of work-family conflict, specifically work-to-family conflict. In light of evidence indicating that the US workforce is becoming more ethnically diverse, and economic projections suggesting substantial growth in non-professional jobs, it is imperative to expand understanding of work-family conflict beyond white, professional workers."

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